JAH Donair Meat Mix – Halifax Style
YES! Well, this has been a long time coming! I have been working on this off and on for a long time. I finally got it! And it’s beautiful.
The hardest part was the texture. I was so frustrated with this one. See if you search for a Donair Recipe online you get the standard recipe. Oregano, Onion, Garlic, Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Paprika, some with flour, others with bread crumbs. Here’s the problem. Take a close look at the picture claiming to be the Donair. The meat is dry, crumbly, no stretch, and not pliable.
Well, it might suit the average home especially if you’re no longer living on the east coast. This is not good enough for me. I want authentic donair, just like home. This includes taste, texture, spicy kick, and appearance. OK, before I go on about the donair. Below is my recipe for how to use JAH Donair Spice to make your own at home. The leftover meat can be portioned and frozen for later use.
What is a Donair?
A Donair is a Spiced Ground Beef Mixture shaped into a Loaf and cooked on a vertical rotisserie (Doner). Shavings of meats are sliced off and served on Pita Bread (Lebanese) with Donair Sauce, Onions & Tomatoes. Some people add in Mozzarella Cheese and Lettuce. However true enthusiasts would argue against Lettuce and Cheese. Just Pita Bread, Donair Meat, Donair Sauce, Onions & Tomatoes.
It was introduced to Halifax Nova Scotia in the early 1970s. After many attempts by Peter Gamoulakos to serve Gyros. He decided to switch from lamb to a spiced beef and tzatziki sauce to a sweet sauce he created. This today is what is known as the Halifax Donair.
Believe it or not, there are variations to this. From my understanding, there were also Lebanese immigrants competing for the Donair taste. While almost all of them originating from Halifax taste extremely close. There were from what I remember myself different variations. I remember some being darker or lighter than others, some spicier than others, even the texture was slightly different with some being steak-like and others being mushier, even the sweet sauce in some places was really thick and in others runny. While there were slight differences they pretty much tasted the same.
Everyone was trying to compete in the Donair Market. There were a few lawsuits, business shutdowns, arguments, and dissolved relationships, and different people claiming credit for the Halifax Donair when first being introduced. It has a long history before shaping into what we know today.
Even today there are different variations of Halifax Donair meat. The main key players in the donair industry for manufacturing the Donair meat are Mr. Donair, Johnny’s K, Tony’s Donair, and a few others as well as Kronos in the USA.
For ordering Donairs the biggest name is King of Donair (KOD). With other restaurants providing the Halifax Donair as well. Even restaurants claiming that they order the Halifax Donair meat from the main supplier have different variations of the meat. With some being darker or lighter than others, at different textures and heat levels.
Where to get Donair Meat
It can be purchased at our online store at shop.jahzkitchen.com.
It is commonly sold in Pizza stores and now small kits that you can pick up at the grocery store. It can also be purchased at your local Cash & Carry outlet.
For all of those East Coasters that can’t quite get their hands on it and have resorted to making it themselves. JAH Original Halifax Style Donair mix. It is the best homemade version mix of a Halifax Style Donair.
All too well, I know the feeling. I left the East Coast to go to British Columbia and later moved to Ontario. While in BC I could not find a decent donair, not even at local Cash & Carry. The Halifax Donair Sauce was no wheres. So this is when I started trying to come up with a version like the Halifax Donair. It was only when I moved to Ontario that I finally got it and has been a long time in development.
This is a dish that is exclusively found only on the East Coast.
It is well known as being an excellent food for after the bars. Later it was sold Pizza Style as the Donair Pizza. It truly is a Maritime food.
What to look for
Color – The Color is tricky because it does vary not only from restaurant to restaurant but even batches. You are looking for brown color (Brown/Tan – Grayish or with Mr. Donair a reddish tinge). The meat should not be dark brown at all. Mind you it does darken more when cooked longer but still should not be a dark brown. It can also be a lighter color if the meat is mixed and can range in color from different types of beef.
Texture – It should be pliable and stretchy. Like shaved slivers of steak. It has fight when trying to pull it apart. If it crumbles or breaks when bending. It’s not authentic.
Heat – It should be fairly spicy. Not overwhelming but on the tip. It should be difficult for you to decide if it’s too spicy or not. It should be a lingering heat that dissipates afterward. This of course varies from person to person, but in general, it should have a very noticeable heat.
Fat Content – This is a greasy dish, it should extrude juice and grease when squeezed. If cooked in the pan you should see grease. When Cooking in the oven it should have deposits of juice and fat droplets. If it looks dry. It’s not authentic.
Spice – It is Onion and Garlic Dominant along with other Herbs & Spices. But not too much on the herb side if any at all.
Served with a sweet sauce, called Donair Sauce, that offers the correct balance of sweet heat when combined with the donair.
Donair Meat Uses
Standard Halifax Style Donair – Pita Bread, Donair Meat, Donair Sauce, Tomatoes & Onions. Some prefer Lettuce and/or Mozzarella Cheese.
Pizza with Donair Sauce, Donair Meat, Mozzarella Cheese topped with Onions, Tomatoes, and Sauce. Sometimes Lettuce.
Donair done Calzonian Style. Halifax Style Donair Meat, Donair Sauce, Diced Onions, and Tomatoes with Cheese. The Calzone is brushed with Garlic Butter.
Fries, Donair Sauce, Donair Meat, Mozzarella Cheese, topped with Onions & Tomatoes. Sometimes Lettuce and extra sauce.
Samosa filled with a mixture of Donair Meat, Donair Sauce, Mozzarella Cheese, Onions. Sometimes Tomatoes.
Oven sub topped with Donair Sauce, Donair Meat, Mozzarella Cheese, Onions extra sauce. Optionally Tomatoes & Lettuce.
Burger Buns, Either Shaved Donair Meat/ Burger Patties made with Donair Seasoning/ Burger Patties seasoned with Donair Seasoning, Mozzarella Cheese, Donair Sauce, Onions, Tomatoes. Optionally Lettuce.
Lahmacun Style – Raw Donair meat spread unto uncooked Pita bread dough and baked in the oven or stovetop with a lid.
Cooked Crumbled or paste-like Donair Meat mixed with Cream Cheese, Donair Sauce, and a Mozzarella Cheese Blend. Baked in the oven for 20 minutes and topped with Onions & Tomatoes. Use to Dip Tortilla or Pita Chips.
Halifax Donair Kebab Meat served on a Steamed and then Baked Hot Dog Bun topped with Diced Onions, Tomatoes, and Donair Sauce. Optionally Stuffed with Mozzarella Cheese or Cheese on top.
Same as the Regular Halifax Donair except the Pita Bread is swapped out with Samoon Bread. A very tasty and popular Iraqi Bread.
Same as a Halifax Donair but wrapped in Markouk or Markook Saj Bread which adds a Chewiness.
Donair Meat with Tomatoes, Onions, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Nappa Cabbage. Dressed in a Donair Salad Dressing.
With Plenty more recipes using Halifax Donair Meat. Just check out my Collection of all things Donair.
My history of the donair as I can recall. I grew up in Halifax and was introduced to the donair early in my life. Eating it the first time, I wasn’t sure if I could handle the heat. I would take a bite and pause, waiting for it to get to the point that I couldn’t handle it. But it never did. It was spicy but not overwhelming at all. I felt great being able to handle something spicy. I was a kid, this was an achievement.
Now I am much older and always come back to it looking for that spicy kick and sweet sauce combination that just works so well. I also crave it when looking for a protein-packed meal just as bad as a juicy steak.
Much Love for the Halifax Donair. My desire is to have this available for everyone to make in their own home who have grown an attachment to the Halifax Donair and have a Love of their own for it.
Standard Donair Recipe
There are arguments on whether it is of Greek origin or Lebanese origin. You will find visiting different restaurants that there are subtle differences in what is claimed to be the Halifax Donair.
In general, what makes the Halifax Donair is the Spiced Ground Beef mainly dominant in Garlic & Onion with some Heat and supported by additional Herbs & Spices that support the flavor overall in combination with the Donair Sauce. Which is a Sweet Garlicky Sauce based on evaporated milk. It is served on Lebanese Flat Bread with Diced Onions & Tomatoes.
The Standard Base Seasoning is 1 tsp per lbs of Ground Meat with the exception of Cayenne Pepper which is 1/8 tsp and upwards. Some only use 1/2 tsp Garlic & Onion per 1 lb of meat. You can start with 1/2 tsp Black Pepper, Onion & Garlic, and 1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper and then up it based on your preference. Some use Italian Seasoning or Za’atar in place of Oregano. MSG is almost always added in restaurant versions.
- Black Pepper
- Cayenne Pepper
Donair Meat always has some kind of Binder in it.
The Binders seem to be different in various recipes. Bread Crumbs about 1/4 C per Lbs of Meat or a couple of tsp Flour and/or Eggs. There are a few other things that contribute to the Binding. Salt being one of them.
The original old style donairs used bread crumbs. Nowadays Soy Protein, Sodium Phosphate are used for binding and to create Juicy Meat by retaining moisture.
Salt also plays a major role in tightness if you see any recipes that require less than 1 tsp salt per lbs of meat. That’s not it. Salt contributes significantly to the binding of the meat.
This is also why you have to refrigerate the Donair Loaf to give it time for the salt to work and create tight bonds, resulting in tightly packed meat.
Use medium ground meat preferably. Optionally add some lamb, about 10 – 20 % which will help with the binding and color as well. Additional fat can be added through Beef Suet, Lamb Fat, Soy Bean Oil, Sun Flower Oil, or other forms of Fat especially if using Lean Ground Beef. With the Medium Ground Beef, the fat is already there.
Donair Herbs & Spices
The above ingredients do well to get that donair flavor but there are more ingredients that give it that subtle flavor blend. Some sources state 20 ingredients, while others state 26 ingredients for the Original Halifax Donair.
If the Donair Spice is on the Herby side, that is not the Halifax Donair. The Original Halifax Donair contains very few herbs if any at all.
Below are various manufacturers of Donair meat and their Ingredient listing.
BEEF, LAMB, WATER, BREAD CRUMBS (BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, WATER, DEXTROSE, SALT & YEAST, MAY CONTAIN SOYBEAN OIL, CALCIUM PROPIONATE), SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, SALT, SPICES, GARLIC & ONION POWDER, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE
Mr Donair Ingredients
BEEF, WATER, WHEAT FLOUR, TOASTED WHEAT CRUMBS, MONO- SODIUM GLUTAMATE, SALT, SPICES, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, DEXTROSE, YEAST EXTRACT, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER, PARSLEY, CANOLA OIL.
Bonte Donair Ingredients
Beef, water, soy protein, spice mix (monosodium glutamate, irradiated spices, onion powder, garlic powder), soy isolate, salt, potato starch.
Tony’s Donair Kit Ingredients
Water, Beef, Enriched White Flour, Onions, Tomatoes, Toasted Wheat Crumbs, Sugars (Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Dextrose) Vinegar, Milk And Modified Milk Ingredients, Salt, Yeast, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice, Yeast Extract, Modified Corn Starch, Potassium Chloride, Garlic Powder, Coconut Oil, Cellulose Gum, Calcium Propionate, Dehydrated Onion, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Mono – And Diglycerides, L-Cysteine (Microcrystalline Cellulose, L-Cysteine Monohydrochloride Anhydrous, Corn Starch), Phosphoric Acid. Contains: Wheat, Milk.
JAH Halifax Donair Spice
For Product Information check out JAH Halifax Donair Spice.
Here is a video on our Facebook page of the final product. Thinly Sliced Spicy Donair Meat. If you’re a Haligonian or Maritimer this will really get you going and it is exactly what you need for Homemade Donairs with Restaurant Quality no matter where you live.
- Food Processor or Dough Mixer
- Broiler Pan
- 1 lbs Medium Ground Beef if mixing meats add 10 – 20 % Lamb or Pork
- 3 Tbl JAH Halifax Donair Spice
- 1 Tbl Cold Water
- For every 1 lb ( 454 g) of very Cold Medium or Lean Ground Beef mix with 3 Tbl JAH Donair Spice & 1 Tbl Cold Water in a Food Processor for about 2 minutes or in a dough mixer fitted with a paddle for 10 – 15 minutes until it turns to a paste. You can do this by hand, just be sure to get a paste-like consistency with the meat.
- Place all of the meat onto a counter and flatten it out to get all the air out. Then form into Ball and throw it down on the counter a few times with force to further get trapped air out. Shape into an elongated loaf and wrap in saran wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, overnight is best.
- Preheat oven to 300 F and place the Donair Meat on a Broiler Pan. Cook until internal temp of 160 F. Flip over halfway through. For 1 lb it is about 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest. Reserve the grease that is in the pan, if any depending on your cut of meat, to fry the donair meat later.
- Shave/Slice into very thin slices and heat Donair Meat in a frying pan over medium-high to max Heat with the Grease Drippings.
- Wet your hands while handling the Raw meat for easier handling.
- Cut the loaf lengthwise into 1-inch strips and then slice thinly to get shaved donair meat like the restaurants.
- With Lean Ground Meat, you can add in about 80 g – 90 g of Beef or Lamb Fat. Freeze the fat and cut it into small pieces. Puree until in small pieces before adding in the Meat & Seasoning.